Work in Sports
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Once again, the Portland Trail Blazers got off to a quick start. Scottie Pippen made sure they did not have another disappointing finish.
Pippen scored 22 points in a terrific all-around performance and the Trail Blazers stayed alive in the Western Conference finals with a 96-88 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
"We know in our minds and heart we can beat this team," Pippen said.
With his team facing elimination, Pippen took complete control.
The versatile forward was everywhere, running the offense while making 3-pointers and drives and spearheading the defense with blocks, steals and a thorough shutdown of Kobe Bryant.
Pippen made 8-of-12 shots, including 2-of-4 from behind the arc.
He added six rebounds, four blocks, three assists and three steals. Most of that came after he took a tumble late in the first quarter and dislocated two fingers on his left hand.
"Scottie's a warrior. He's been through it," Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He's out there giving his best. I thought he made big plays in the second half, going after loose balls. He tracked down a couple of loose balls that were big possessions for us. He just really wanted it."
"Pippen was very, very aggressive tonight," Lakers forward Robert Horry said. "We've got to find a way to slow him down."
After the game, Pippen had words with Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
The two won six championships together in Chicago but have had a simmering war of words in this series.
"Phil is not my coach. I'm not listening to Phil," Pippen said.
The Blazers never trailed, jumping out to an early lead for the third straight game. Unlike Games Three and Four at home, when it suffered through second-half collapses, Portland surged in the third quarter and temporarily denied Los Angeles its first trip to the NBA Finals in nine years.
A determined Rasheed Wallace added 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers, who host Game Six on Friday. The road team has won four straight games in this series.
"I told you from the very beginning that I didn't think there was a home-court advantage in this series," Dunleavy said. "I thought that either team was capable of winning every game on the other team's home court, that it was going to come down to how you play every night."
"We feel pretty comfortable going back to Portland," Bryant said. "If we're going to be a championship team, we're going to go through some adversity."
Shaquille O'Neal had 31 points and 21 rebounds for the Lakers but did not have much help. Bryant scored 17 points but shot just 4-of-13 from the field, committed six turnovers and fouled out. Glen Rice made just 1-of-8 shots and scored four points.
"Foul trouble hurt us," Jackson said. "Kobe got a lot out of control."
Bryant sprained his foot in the first quarter. X-rays after the game were negative but he will be re-examined Wednesday.
Los Angeles shot 38 percent (30-of-79), including 6-of-27 from behind the arc as the Blazers dared the Lakers to beat them from outside. Portland shot 43 percent (32-of-74).
"It was an opportunity missed," O'Neal said. "There is an old basketball saying -- you live by the jump shot and you die by the jump shot. We shot 27 3s and only made six."
"We were always looking for that dagger," said Horry, who made 3-of-11 shots. "We didn't look at Shaq enough on the inside."
Fined $10,000 by the NBA earlier today for a forearm in Game Four, Pippen came out as if he vowed to go down shooting. He had a dunk, steal, layup and tip-in as Portland jumped to a 13-6 lead in the first five minutes.
Pippen scored 12 points in the first quarter, which ended with the Blazers holding a 26-24 lead. Near the end of the period, he was called for an offensive foul and as he went crashing to the floor put out his hand to break his fall.
The injury seemed to slow Pippen but his teammates picked up the pace. Wallace and Bonzi Wells had 3-pointers in a 14-6 surge that opened the second quarter and gave Portland a 40-30 lead with 7:27 remaining.
The Lakers cut the deficit to three points in the final minute, but Wallace made a layup, Pippen made a steal from Bryant and at the buzzer drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner -- his only shot of the period -- for a 53-45 halftime edge.
"We had a pretty good game in hand coming out of that second quarter and they put on a little rush at the end," Jackson said.
"They got a five-point burst at the end of the second quarter to take the game from three to eight. ... A turnover by Kobe and a 3-point shot by Scottie."
Bryant was 1-of-8 with four turnovers and the Lakers shot just 31 percent (14-of-45) in the first half. They were not alarmed because they had come storming back in the third quarter of each of the last two games.
But that rally never materialized. Bryant made a jumper and a 3-pointer but also committed two fouls, giving him four. A layup by Ron Harper cut the deficit to 57-53 before Arvydas Sabonis made a jumper and Pippen had a steal and 3-pointer to rebuild the lead to nine with 6:33 left in the period.
Another layup by Harper had the Lakers within 72-67 with 1:53 to go but Pippen had two steals and Detlef Schrempf had four points in an 8-0 run that closed the quarter and gave Portland an 80-67 lead.
"Those little glitches at the end of the periods really bothered us," Jackson said. "It took momentum away from us. It was a lack of concentration on our part."
Bryant picked up his fifth foul with 10:21 left and should have been hit with his sixth 19 seconds later. However, he received a favorable whistle, made two free throws and added a basket on the next trip that pulled Los Angeles within 82-74 with 9:33 to go.
Schrempf found Brian Grant for a three-point play and Pippen for a hook in the lane to make it 87-76. Horry made a 3-pointer but the Lakers did not score for another 2 1/2 minutes as Pippen blocked a shot by Harper and Bryant fouled out with 4:45 left.
"He's been around so he knows what it takes," Schrempf said of Pippen. "He's more aggressive, he's focused and he's setting a good example for everyone else."
"Pip played his heart out the whole time," Blazers forward Brian Grant said. "I think he really motivated all of us to take the ball to the hole strong. I think that's the thing we haven't been doing."
Steve Smith scored 13 points and Sabonis added 12 for Portland, which got a boost from its bench. Grant and Schrempf scored nine points apiece as the Blazers went almost exclusively with a big lineup. Point guards Damon Stoudamire and Greg Anthony played a combined 23 minutes.
Harper scored 14 points and Derek Fisher 10 for the Lakers.